The Eat From the Pantry Challenge

EFTP_button_300 This month, Life as Mom is hosting the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. The idea is that each family spend the month of January trying to eat their way through the bounty in the pantry/freezer/cupboards to save a little money in the New Year.

I am a bulk food addict and I belong to an awesome organic bulk-food co-op. That’s a dangerous combination that explains why I currently have a life-time supply of such staples as quinoa, dried beans, and rice in my pantry. I also love tea. Matt & I have been on a tea-buying moratorium for over a year now and still have probably another year’s worth (and we drink lots of tea). So the idea of burning through some of this excess, while saving a little money, appeals.

Some of the challenge participants are trying not to go the grocery store at all, or have given themselves a budget of, say, $100 for the month. We’re going to do the best we can, but will likely still be buying some fresh produce here and there throughout the month. Here’s a little status update on Day 4 of the challenge, highlighting what we’ve burned through thus far:

Tea

We had talked for several months about our need to break the coffee addiction. On the few recent mornings when I’ve forgone my double-espresso, I’ve been groggy enough to illustrate just how addicted I am. Being mildly lactose-intolerant, this is a good decision for me because it cuts my main source of daily dairy out. So on January 2, we gave up coffee and started burning through that tea. We have way more than a month’s worth, even if we drink several cups throughout the day (quite a bit of it is decaffeinated, so it’s not like we’re totally replacing our caffeine intake!). I’d like to get in to making my own tea blends, so clearing the prefab tea out of our pantry supports that.

Spice Blends

In addition to bulk grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes, I have a serious affinity for tiny jars of spice. Peanut sauce, green curry, various Indian spice blends, chili pastes and powders clutter up my spice rack and fridge. So this week, we’ve eaten through quite a few of these spice blends by mixing them with frozen or cold-storage veggies that we already had on hand. We’ve had Indian food, using up three packets of spice mix, a good portion of rice, chick peas, and cauliflower from the pantry. We’ve also had green curry, using additional rice, green beans, peas, and both green curry & coconut milk from the pantry. We’ve got another can of coconut milk in there, so I’m guessing this will be on the menu again this month!

Rice Milk

As I mentioned, I’m mildly lactose-intolerant, so what better way to drop some dairy from my diet, while at the same time using up some of that bulk rice, than to make my own rice milk? I found the very simple recipe on Vegan Reader, and also learned a lot that I never wanted to know about Hain Celestial! I tried some of the rice milk in my smoothie this morning (also using up several cups of frozen berries from the freezer!) and it was great. I added some almonds for extra creaminess and will be putting rice milk on my granola and oatmeal (did I mention how many oats I have in the basement, sheesh!) this month.

Canned Fruits

We typically try to eat a local diet, and do a lot of food preservation. While I often “shop” for dinner in my freezer full of veggies, grab a can of marinara sauce from the pantry, or raid the cold storage for a potato, onion, or squash, somehow we’re not very good at using the canned fruit, other than applesauce, which is the kids’ favorite. I didn’t even can any fruit this year because I had so much left from last year. So I busted out some canned peaches and pears and guess what? The kids LOVE them. We spend a lot of money in the winter on citrus, bananas, and pineapple, and it will be nice to replace some of that with fruit that I paid for months ago!

Hummus

In addition to trying to eat local, we’re mostly vegetarian. The kids love meat, so I slip in chicken every once in a while, give them beef hot dogs, and make the occasional bacon. But probably 5 days out of seven, we don’t eat any meat. While this sort of explains the abundance of beans, I need to be better about cooking the beans in my good old lead-free crock pot. And again, the kids love hummus. It also helps me use up the many different kinds of nut butters that I have in the pantry.

Quinoa

I wasn’t kidding when I said I bought a life-time supply of quinoa. Since we went local a few years ago, there have been some off years where no Colorado-grown quinoa was available. Colorado is the only place I know of outside of South America that grows the stuff, so when it turned up on our co-op list, I was desperate to have some. Other co-op members were less excited, so I ended up with 20 pounds out of a 25 pound bag. In case you’re wondering, that’s a lot of quinoa. Especially when you consider how it expands while cooking. I won’t need to buy it again for probably at least 2 years, but I am going to see how much I can use up this month starting with the curried quinoa and quinoa stew recipes I found online.

Are you participating in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge? What has been hardest for you? What creative recipes have you discovered?

6 thoughts on “The Eat From the Pantry Challenge

  1. I don't like menu pnnlniag but I still do it anyway. Each week after I finalize my menu I am glad that I spend the time to do it. I also organize my shopping list according to where in the store the items I need are. I'm dorky like that. :)

  2. Heather says:

    We’ve started with eating all our leftovers out of the fridge and had dinner tonight out of the freezer. My goal is to buy only milk, fruit, and veggies this month and maybe even next! I need to take pictures of our freezers.

  3. I hear you, Alison! We spend more each month on groceries than our mortgage payment at our first house, so I’m looking for ways to reduce (having a big garden this year is of course in the plans!).

    Kellie, I know what you mean about the electricity use. We have an old freezer and an old fridge in our garage. We’re intending to move them to the basement to reduce the energy consumption a bit, but the freezer at least, which is 10+ years old, needs to be replaced with a more energy efficient model.

  4. I am totally on board with this challenge. I saw HL sign up on FB the other day and it was a fantastic coincidence. I have huge bulk stores and after a year of tracking our spending, we spent more on food in 2009 than some people make in a year. Seriously. My goal is to reduce that expense by at least a third this year and then maybe we can go on a vacation! Or send Winston to preschool. I haven’t been to the site yet, are people blogging about what they are making? That might be fun… I am still going to be buying milk for the monkey and his dad, and little fresh produce, but everything else is coming from the pantry or the freezer!

  5. I think I’m going to go sign up for this! After having an energy audit and seeing just how much the chest freezer in our basement costs to run, I think we’re going to get rid of it soon. That leaves us with a lot of food to go through. Thanks for the inspiration!

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